Posts Tagged ‘Steve Benen’

Awful News for Republicans

Sunday, March 11th, 2012

In awful news for Republicans, things are getting better in this country.

Courtesy of Steve Benen, here’s a color coded chart of private sector job growth since the beginning of the Great Recession.

That makes 24 straight months of private sector growth and this month’s report was extremely positive.

While the employer survey shows that the economy created 227,000 new jobs last month, the household survey shows an increase of 428,000 jobs. The unemployment remained at 8.3%, but that’s only because almost a half a million more people started looking for work last month. Being able to maintain the same unemployment rate while absorbing another half a million people is a very encouraging sign.

Of course, all the usual caveats apply: it’s a giant hole we’re in, we’ll need to sustain these gains for much longer to get back to pre-bubble levels, we had good job growth early last year before Fukushima, the Tea Party Downgrade and the Greek Debt Crisis, and economists are forecasting a smaller growth rate for the rest of the year, which may dampen the rate of increase. Still, we’re off to a good start this year, and there’s finally a sense that we might be emerging from this mess.

Meanwhile, faced with this overwhelmingly positive news, the Republicans either ignored it or denied it, which once again shows how much of a stake they have in things not improving.

Obama and OWS Shift the Debate

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

 occupiers in New York

A few weeks ago, Steve Benen wrote about how that Obama’s push for the Jobs Bill had shifted the terms of debate in this country onto a more favorable playing field for Obama and the Democrats:

For the better part of 2011, the battle lines were drawn in a way that Republicans loved. The only topics of conversation that were permitted dealt with debt reduction, entitlement “reforms,” spending cuts, and austerity. The question wasn’t whether Washington would impose pain on an already-suffering populace, but how much…

The discourse is now a very different place, because the White House had the sense to take a conversational detour. Thanks in part to a concerted p.r. campaign from President Obama, and with some pushes from Occupy Wall Street, the topics that now dominate are about job creation, financial industry responsibility, and tax fairness.

Rachel Maddow provided more evidence of this last week, when she used the simple measurement of how many times the mainstream media brought up the phrase “corporate greed” before Occupy Wall Street and after Occupy Wall Street. The results are dramatic. As Maddow noted, while much of the focus on Occupy Wall Street has been on the lack of answers the movement is providing, Occupy Wall Street has done something more fundamental: it has changed the questions that are being asked.

As I’ve said before, the top issue for the country is the same issue that it’s been for the past 4 years: jobs, jobs, jobs. For the majority of Americans, it was never about ”Obamacare” and it was never about the deficit. These are important issues, but they are not the core issues for most Americans. They were distractions from the jobs crisis that is plauging the entire country, and even more, they were distractions from the issues that predate the jobs crisis: the ongoing erosion of the middle class.

A recent study of income trends by the Congressional Budget Office showed that, in the past 40 years, incomes increased for the top 1% by over 275% on average as compared to a an 18% increase for the bottom 20% and just under 40% for the middle of the income scale. To many Americans, this will just confirm what they already know: the middle class continues to struggle as the rich get richer.

What looks to be a long term presence of the Occupy Wall Street movement guarantees that these issues will continue to be covered in the news. This is good news for Democrats. To be sure, Democrats have been part of the problem when it comes to regulating big business in America. Even with a 60 vote majority in the Senate, they still didn’t have the votes for a Wall Street reform bill with any teeth. But there’s a difference between being a part of the problem and being a wholly owned subsidiary of the large corporations and top 1% of earners.

As Jonathan Alter notes:

a healthy rebalancing of the national conversation is…under way. The Tea Party directed public anger against the federal government in general and President Barack Obama in particular; Occupy Wall Street directs that ire against Wall Street in general and — inevitably — Romney in particular.

This will have no effect on Romney in the Republican primaries, of course, but in a general election it could make him the poster boy of the big banks that many see as the cause of their woes. The specifics of his record running Bain Capital LLC will be subsumed in the image of his rationalizing the actions (resisting any tax increases) of the “1 percenters.”

But an even more important than the highlighting the consequences of Republican laissez-faire economic policies would be for Occupy Wall Street to put some steel in Obama and the Democrats’ spines and convince them that there is broad support for common sense regulations on big business and other policies that shore up the middle class.

Time will tell, but the events of the past few weeks offer some hope.

The GOP’s Politics of Extortion

Monday, August 15th, 2011

One of the things that I thought of in the midst of all the debt ceiling BS was: what of the shoe was on the other foot?

In other words, what if Democrats held the Full Faith and Credit of the United States hostage in order to pass an unpopular bill against the will of the people? Remember, the Democrats were elected to 3/5 of the seats in both houses of the legislature and controlled the Presidency in 2008. But when they tried to enact their agenda on health care, it was “tyranny” and Republicans couldn’t wait to go to their local park carrying Obama-with-a-Hitler-moustache signs.

Now, the Republicans control 1/3 of the three institutions that make laws in the United States and they are holding the US economy hostage to force the Senate and President to bend to their will? A rough Democratic equivalent would have been if Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats didn’t take the Senate in 2006, but refused to raise the debt ceiling until the Republican Senate and President capitulated and passed a national health care law.

We know what would happen in that case: Republicans would have been screaming bloody murder, and rightfully so.

As Steve Benen points out, the Republicans have made “extortion politics” the new norm in Washington. They only control one branch of the legislature, but they have managed to force enactment of policies that they couldn’t get passed through legitimate political processes. They have manage to keep not only repeal of Bush Tax cuts for the wealthy off the table but alltax increases off the table, and they have kept the Consumer Financial Regulation Agency effectively neutered, even though none of these positions are popular with the American people. Benen’s take is worth extended quotation:

I think this is arguably one of the more important realizations to take away from the current political landscape. Republicans aren’t just radicalized, aren’t just pursuing an extreme agenda, and aren’t just allergic to compromise. The congressional GOP is also changing the very nature of governing in ways with no modern precedent.

Welcome to the normalization of extortion politics….

The traditional American model would tell Republicans to win an election. If that doesn’t work, Republicans should work with rivals to pass legislation that moves them closer to their goal. In 2011, the GOP has decided these old-school norms are of no value. Why bother with them when Republicans can force through policy changes by way of a series of hostage strategies? Why should the legislative branch use its powers through legislative action when extortion is more effective?

It’s offensive when it comes to nominees like CFPB nominee Richard Cordray, but using the full faith and credit of the United States to force through desired policy changes takes this dynamic to a very different level. And since it’s working, this will be repeated and establishes a new precedent.


Remind me again why these guys are the patriotic ones?

Senate to Vote on Ryan Plan

Sunday, May 1st, 2011

Here’s Steve Benen on the Harry Reid’s plan to put the Ryan plan to a vote in the Senate.


As Jonathan Alter said, if the Democrats can’t hang Ryan’s plan to abolish Medicare around the neck of the Republican party, then they should go into a new business.

Barely anyone is paying attention to the intricacies of the budget debate, and Ryan plan has no chance to pass in the Senate, but the closer it gets to passage, the more people are going to start to pay attention. The Democrats should agree not filibuster this plan, so that it actually gets to the floor and we can have a full debate about whether the Senate wants to ratify the plan the House passed and send the bill to abolish Medicare to the President for his first veto.

Bevan muses about whether conservative Democrats would support it and whether moderate Republicans would. He puts the over/under at five but I’d be surprised if we didn’t see mass defections from Republicans on this bill.

As Rachel Maddow pointed out last week, as one of his first acts in office, Dean Heller, the newly appointed Senator from Nevada will become the only person to vote for the Ryan Plan in both the House and the Senate…Unless he decides to vote against killing Medicare after he voted for it.

What a way to start a re-election campaign in a swing state with a large population of seniors. 

 This should be fun.